Award-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr. dead at 87

 March 30, 2024

Louis Gossett Jr., the esteemed actor celebrated for his compelling performance in "An Officer and a Gentleman," has passed away at the age of 87, as confirmed by a statement from his family.

The family's announcement, relayed by Gossett’s long-serving publicist, conveyed their heartfelt sorrow.

The announcement

"It is with our heartfelt regret to confirm our beloved father passed away this morning. We would like to thank everyone for their condolences at this time. Please respect the family’s privacy during this difficult time," the statement read.

On Friday, Neal L. Gossett, Gossett's first cousin, informed the Associated Press that the actor breathed his last in Santa Monica, California. However, the precise cause of his demise remains undisclosed.

Gossett ascended to fame with his portrayal of Fiddler in the 1977 TV mini-series "Roots," a performance that earned him his inaugural Emmy award. Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1936, Gossett's journey into acting commenced during high school, catalyzed by a basketball-related injury that diverted his focus.

Encouraged by his English teacher, Gossett ventured into Manhattan and secured a Broadway role in 1953 at the tender age of 16. Reflecting on his early forays into the industry in his 2010 memoir, "An Actor and a Gentleman," Gossett confessed to feeling an audacious fearlessness: "I knew too little to be nervous."

His accomplishments

Gossett's trajectory continued its upward arc as he pursued higher education at New York University, garnering acclaim on Broadway for his performances in productions like "A Raisin in the Sun" and "Golden Boy," while concurrently making notable appearances on television.

It was his breakthrough role in the 1983 romantic comedy "An Officer and a Gentleman" that solidified his status in Hollywood.

Portraying the indomitable Marine drill instructor alongside Debra Winger and Richard Gere, Gossett not only clinched the inaugural Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor awarded to a Black man but also secured a Golden Globe.

His legacy

Beyond his cinematic achievements, Gossett fervently championed the eradication of racism, founding the Eracism Foundation to combat discrimination, an endeavor propelled by his own encounters with prejudice during his tenure in Hollywood.

In 2010, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, saying he wanted "to set an example for the large number of African-American men who are victims of this disease because of the comparatively low emphasis in our community on preventive examinations and early treatment."

"I count this diagnosis among the many challenges I have faced in my life and overcome," Gossett said in the statement. "I expect this to be no different."

Survived by his sons Satie and Sharron Gossett, Louis Gossett Jr. leaves behind a legacy defined by award-winning performances known by millions of fans.

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